As interviewed and written by Sunil Sunder Raj for Global Women’s Sports Radio
This past Monday evening, I had the opportunity to speak with Montclair State Head Coach Karin Harvey on the phone about her 300th career victory on February 12th against Kean University. In her 14th season as head coach, Harvey has guided the Red Hawks to six NJAC(New Jersey Athletic Conference) and seven NCAA Division III Tournament appearances. Harvey also coached at Drew University in 2006-07. Guiding the Rangers to 13 wins and school record for conference wins.
In 2015 Montclair State reached the Final Four, finishing third in the nation. In 2013, the Red Hawks went 29-1, winning their first NJAC Championship Title in 18 years and reaching the NCAA Division III Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time in the program’s history. 25 players selected to the All-NJAC team, five conference Player of the Year honors, and two Defensive Player of the Year award winners.
Named NJAC Coach of the Year six times, including four in a row from 2015-18, Harvey was also honored with the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Division III Coach of the Year five times and WBCA(Women’s Basketball Coaches Association) Regional Coach of the Year.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Congrats, Coach Harvey, on your 300th career victory, a tremendous milestone. A very special moment for you.
Karin Harvey: It really was; I think when I pass a milestone like that I sort of reflecting on my time at Montclair State as head coach and all the players that made the program and all the people I got to know. My team was really great; they baked me brownies and decorated the locker room.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Heading into the season, did it cross your mind that you were nearing the mark of 300 career wins?
Karin Harvey: Actually, I really didn’t know I was a game away. My assistant told me, and we really need to win at home on Friday. I think it’s been a difficult, challenging year and to have something nice like that to celebrate with my team was really nice.
Sunil Sunder Raj: What was that moment when the final buzzer went off in the game?
Karin Harvey: I didn’t know they made signs, I kind of turned around, and it was all there. I felt very touched, humbled, and felt the love. It kind of choked me up; I was really teary-eyed and caught me off a little guard. When you dedicate your life to something, you work as hard as you can, and to have people appreciate that and be a part of that really does mean a lot.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Erin Monahan of William Paterson got her 500th career victory. Can you talk about the coaches and level of competition in the NJAC?
Karin Harvey: I was laughing because Erin got her 500th the day after I got my 300th. Erin is a great coach, we’re friends, and we were texting a little bit today. You look at what Pat (Devaney) has done in just a short time over at Jersey City (NJCU), and that program is really on the move, and they’re super competitive. What Mandy (King) has done at Kean University is really impressive, Chessie (Jackson) at TCNJ and Demetrious (Poles) at Rowan. I think the level of coaching has risen; it’s a really competitive conference to play in and tough.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Coach Harvey, I have to rattle off some of these accomplishments, six NJAC Championship Titles, seven NCAA Division III Tournament appearances, Final Four in 2015, and finishing third in the nation and going 29-1 in 2013 and winning the first NJAC Tournament Championship Title in 18 years and reaching the NCAA Division III Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. What comes to your mind putting your stamp on the program and just seeing all the hard work pay off?
Karin Harvey: I just think about the people, players, and my assistant Courtney(Cunningham). She played for me at Drew(University), my first year as head coach, and been with me for 13 of my 14 years at Montclair so I think a lot about her and everything we have been able to accomplish. We sort of had a dream and vision to be able to build that together. She is like a sister to me, a lifelong friendship built around basketball.
I think about Montclair State, the opportunity that Holly Gera and Dr. (Karen) Pennington gave me. They called me to come back and be the head coach here. I knew this is where I wanted to spend my life, so I’m grateful for those opportunities.
After the game, we went out and got some dinner and just old stories about some of those years. The 29-1 year, on our way to the NCAA Tournament, and the bus broke down. All those stories and moments sort of accumulating over a 15-year span. It’s very difficult to put into words what the NCAA Tournament means even when you are standing there and just a really special experience. Once you get there, you keep fighting every year to get back, whether it’s the first round, second round, or Sweet 16. Playing in the NCAA Tournament has a very special feel to it and its opportunity to give your student-athletes.
You tell stories about a certain player; remember when she did this and what they are doing now. My players were asking do I still talk to them and do I know what they are doing. I still talk to them; they’re married and have kids. The nicest part about those milestones it gives you an opportunity to reflect on all the great moments you’ve had throughout your career so far that you might not take the time to reflect on.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Named NJAC Coach of the Year six times, including four in a row from 2015-18, Metropolitan Basketball Writers Division III Coach of the Year, and WBCA Regional Coach of the Year five times. What does it mean for your peers to recognize you for what you have been able to accomplish at Montclair State?
Karin Harvey: It means a great deal to me; I had a lot of nice messages from coaches. The other good thing about this profession is I get to meet so many nice people, and you really have so many good friends who are coaches. We want to beat each other, but we also celebrate each other’s victories and special moments.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Can you talk about the support from the Montclair State administration and athletic department?
Karin Harvey: I’m so fortunate at Montclair State the support comes right from the top. Dr. Susan Cole has been nothing but supportive of me and my program. She has been to our games, championships and cut down the net with us. Our new athletic director Rob Chesney worked tirelessly to allow us to play this year. I think in a year like this, it really shows how important it is to have an administration that’s supportive and cares about your student-athletes, and willing to fund your programs and allow you to have a career and do something that you love. Montclair(State) is a very special place; I’m grateful for it and sure where I hope to finish my career.
Sunil Sunder Raj: When the team puts that Montclair State Red Hawks uniform on, what does that represent and mean?
Karin Harvey: When you wear the Red Hawks uniform it means you are going to be a good person and student and going to work as hard as you possibly can. We want to win basketball games, but I think, more importantly, it’s the people behind the people wearing those uniforms and things they’ve been able to do within our program and our university and because of the support we provide them.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Can you talk about how pivotal the Montclair State alumni are?
Karin Harvey: We just re-did our alumni wall in our locker room, and I’m pretty excited about it. We haven’t been able to put the pictures out yet, but we’re very proud of our alums. We have a great and amazing group of women that have played for us. They’re out in the world and doing so many great things, and I couldn’t be more proud of where they are now. I had a young lady that graduated in 2011 text me today, and that’s very special.
Sunil Sunder Raj: My final question, Can you talk about the support from your family?
Karin Harvey: My Mom was a big part of Montclair State; she passed away since, but she used to come to all the games, and I still see her during the national anthem. I start to reflect, seeing her sitting over there, and I’m nervous because it’s game day. She got to be at a lot of games, and it was a very special part of my memory at Montclair State.